The Unforgivable Sin
What is the unforgivable sin for a black man? One would think calling a black woman out of her name, but apparently hip-hop and Isaiah Thomas have taken the sting out of that one. It used to be taboo to participate in interracial dating, but even that has lost its bite.
Actually, it is something a lot less politically charged than that or is it? It took me 24 years to figure it out, but the unforgivable sin for a black man is…to be unemployed. I did not realize it, now I am faced with the looming prospect of unemployment upon completing my post-graduate studies. And as the song says, I am living under pressure.
Up until this point, I have tried to be a pretty responsible guy. I have done my best to be the Dream of Dr. King and what not. But apparently, I did not realize how quickly that accounts for nothing when you do not have a J-O-B.
I guess I was spared this hard lesson since I have been in the workforce since I was 12, often working multiple jobs. I have pretty much done it all if it was legal and it paid. However, there exists what I call “The Paradox of Education.” This is my theory that says, for every door education opens, it simultaneously closes a certain number of other doors. I first encountered this phenomenon when I graduated from college. I realized that there was a certain percentage of the population I could no longer date or associate with, not because I had a degree, but because of what the degree represented. And I tried to fight it, but it went directly against the experiences that had become a part of me by attending a four year institution at a major University. There are just certain things you can no longer do or that you no longer understand. So I just accepted it. Paradox:1 Steve:0.
Now, I have a rematch with the Paradox and it is not looking good. I am on the cusp of completing a professional degree and the turn around on employment is slow as molasses. Let me explain. By having this degree, I have a certain threshold standard I cannot deviate below. Not simply due to my qualifications, but because a brother gotta pay them loans back. Henceforth, there are only so many jobs at a certain pay grade. Furthermore, said jobs requires a higher level of responsibility, and if people are paying close to six figures to have someone work for them, you bet your bottom dollar they are going to take their time on parting with that money. And then you look at other restraints, like in my case, taking and passing the bar, which limits my options even further geographically and time wise, with a degree that was supposed to make me more marketable. I guess I’m just a black man caught up in the mix. Deeezzaaammm. (c) Aaron.
I understand this, but families, members of the community and significant others do not often understand this slow turnaround. Nor do they have much patience for the explanation I have just laid out before you. I am supposed to be getting that Johnnie Cochran money. Hence, even the most qualified and responsible of brothers cannot escape the stigma of the “Trife Negro” that attaches to every unemployed African American male. If you do not believe me, next time you go to the club, tell the next P.Y.T. you talk to that you do not have a job and see how much action you get. On the real, you better off telling her you are a “street pharmicist.”
But here in lies the rub…Historically speaking, African Americans have had an abysmal experience with the job market. After what I have been through with employers, I do not know why I have not just thrown in the towel. Corporate America is a trip. Especially for us. I really am feeling like a Black Maybe right now (c) Common.
Xscape said it best, “All I need from you is understanding.” And I guess that is all I am looking for. Just because I am a professional does not change the fact that I am black and black also indicates more than just racial difference. More so when I interview at these firms and I am the only black face in the joint. So what’s a man to do? I still have to provide, I still have to get out there and hustle, but I have the added pressure out in the world and also when I go home. Don’t push me cuz I am close to the edge (c) Curtis Blow. But it is what it is.
Maybe you all can help me out. If you have experienced this phenomenon, holla at ya boy. But I really am feeling like a Superspade right now. I might show up to my next interview in a cape with my draws outside of my slacks. Don’t worry, I will be ok. I always find a way to eat. I can laugh at it because I have seen it replayed in my household and in other households over and over again. And as my mother often told me, “Aint nobody going to give you anything.” So I really aint expecting anything. But when I come home or get around my people, a little understanding would be nice. Because for a black man, unemployment is like a war, you probably did not start it and you do not know when it will end (Shout out to Colin Powell). So, I am strapping in for a prolonged engagement to say the least.
I will leave you with this: Ladies, if you gotta good dude and he meets this terrible monster, take it easy on him and troop it out. It is hard to keep your head up after being rejected over and over. And fellas, if and when it happens to you voluntarily or involuntarily, be strong and keep knockin on those doors, one of them gotta open up. If not, build your own house.
Truth and Peace,
Steven M DeVougas